Families are still trying to rebuild their homes after winter storm

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas is now moving into week two of recovery efforts following the winter storm.

During a briefing with President Joe Biden, Harris County's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Sloan said in initial reports, 10,400 county residents reported broken pipes that caused damage to their homes.

Andrew Mitchell and his brother-in-law Isaiah Pinnock with Mitchell's Plumbing & Heating, LLC traveled from New Jersey to help make repairs for Houston-area families.

"The major problem is that, they have no water at all. So, what we try to do when we go to someone's house [is] we leave them with water, and we try our very best to make sure everything is working," Mitchell said. "Out of the 60+ people, it's three [people] that we need to get back to."

The duo said they have been working non-stop for seven days straight. Mitchell said they've had some instances where they've had to fix the mistakes a previous plumber made trying to repair the home.

He also said plumbing supplies are running low, and the prices have skyrocketed.

"This copper [pipe] is gold," Pinnock said. "This is marked up 600% right now. We are really here to just help people out of a crisis, but what we're noticing is that there are people out there trying to take advantage of people in their desperation. We have seen some plumbing supply warehouses marking up these prices to an unbelievable high mark that I've never even seen anything close to it, and that's really making the relief effort a lot tougher."

Both Mitchell and Pinnock said they have seen a lot of issues with poor insulation and homes that were not weather prepared.

"I would like to highlight the fact that I'd like all homeowners to know that you have a water shut off valve for your house," Pinnock said. "That is crucial information that would have saved many, many homeowners we have visited so far thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in property damage."

Houston mother Monica Ware first spoke with ABC13 last Sunday, walking through her flooded rental home that was damaged by broken pipes. Ware, her husband and their four children, ages three to 10, have been staying in a hotel for two weeks now.

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Families across the Houston area are scrambling to find shelter after a catastrophic winter storm destroyed what they once knew as home.



Ware said her landlord told them the repairs to the house were made by a plumber overnight. When Ware and her husband checked on the home, there was an additional leak that caused a previously undamaged part of the ceiling to crack.

"It wasn't salvageable. It's gone," Ware said. "The beds had to be thrown out. The trash came and got them. Their mattresses, bed, clothes, shoes, toys, everything."

Ware tried every avenue to get help. She applied to the FEMA Assistance Program which claimed her family of six was eligible for roughly $1,700 to replace all their belongings, with no date on when that money would arrive.

ABC13 viewers stepped up to help the Ware family, donating more than $6,000 to the Gofundme page, which provided her children with some clothes, paid for hotel stay and helped the family find a new rental home in the nearby area.

"We get to get out of the hotel. They get to be kids and run around and enjoy themselves," Ware said. "It is greatly appreciated, but most importantly your prayers are the most valuable things that y'all gave us, because in a prayer - no one can take it from you. No one can stand in the way of it. So for them praying, that meant the world to us."

Although the family still does not have beds or furniture, Ware said she plans to pay-it-forward and help families who are forced to rebuild their lives, just like hers.

"Keep your head up. Ask for prayers. Try to stay positive," Ware said. "I broke down when they [her children] weren't around of course, but stay on FEMA and don't be afraid to get help."

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